Wednesday. Showery. Largs.

Largs (Scottish Gaelic: An Leargaidh Ghallda) is a town on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland, about 33 miles (53 km) from Glasgow. The original name means "the slopes" (An Leargaidh) in Scottish Gaelic. A popular seaside resort with a pier, the town markets itself on its historic links with the Vikings and an annual festival is held each year in early September. In 1263 it was the site of the Battle of Largs between the Norwegian and the Scottish armies. 

We had travelled to Largs today to meet up with my longstanding internet friend, Christine, of the legendary BLETHERS blog. Chris has been blogging for over seven years and was one of the first people I made contact with when I started OCICBW..., over six years ago now. I had met Chris once before, at Glasgow, St. Mary's Cathedral, when Bishop Gene Robinson visited some years back. We didn't get much of an opportunity to chat that time so it was great to be able meet up for a leisurely chin wag over lunch at Nardini's At The Moorings. Of course, we mostly gossiped about Scottish clergy and I have a lot more dirt on certain individuals now.

The reason why Chris wanted us to meet her in Largs was so that we could catch the ferry over to the island of Great Cumbrae after lunch to visit the Cathedral of the Isles, a Scottish Episcopal Church of great beauty and sacredness. It was in this building that Chris "realised that it was all true" and began her long association with Anglicanism. Her "sudden" conversion was  very similar to Mrs MP's conversion experience in Walsingham many years ago, and so we were very keen to make our pilgrimage to check out this island cathedral. Leaving our car in Largs we made our way as foot (and paw) passengers as this is much the cheaper option and the bus service on Cumbrae is excellent.

It was a journey well worth taking as the cathedral certainly lived up to all our expectations.

The Cathedral of The Isles and Collegiate Church of the Holy Spirit is a cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the town of Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae. It is one of the two cathedrals of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, the other being St John's Cathedral in Oban.

George Frederick Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow was benefactor of the cathedral and commissioned William Butterfield to design the building. Butterfield was one of the great architects of the Gothic revival and also designed St Ninian's Cathedral in Perth. Construction finished in 1849 and the cathedral opened in 1851. Formal gardens and woodland surround the cathedral, the highest building on Great Cumbrae and the smallest cathedral in the British Isles.

Before I left the church, I lit a candle in the Lady Chapel and prayed that one day I would get to serve as a priest in a building like this one.

The only sizeable settlement on Great Cumbrae is the small town of Millport. It's a charming place with rough edges. Obviously it was once quite genteel but now the centre is dominated by scruffy holiday let flats rented by Glaswegian families with not enough money to holiday more than a few miles down the road from where they live.

To be honest, I really liked it.

The next photo is a perfect example of something I was on about the other day. Whenever Scottish planners come across a beautiful view they seem absolutely compelled to erect a bloody ugly power station in the middle of it. How many tourist pounds Millport has lost over the years because of this eyesore must be staggeringly high.

The following photo is of the famous painted rock of Millport. It was originally created back in the early 1950s about the same time as a young boy named Reggie, from Watford in England, would visit Great Cumbrae on holiday each summer with his Aunty Suzanne. They loved the shoreline at Millport and would spend many hours holding hands and skimming stones across the water of the bay. When young Reggie first came across the painted rock he was so excited that his feet just couldn't keep still.

Many years later, Reginald, now known by his stagename, Elton John, would write the song "Crocodile Rock" in which he remembers the rock when it was young and how much fun his Aunt Susie and himself had together  on their summer holidays on Cumbrae.

All good things come to an end and as we didn't want to get stuck on the island with nowhere to stay overnight, we caught the ferry back to Largs.

A useful road sign warning cyclists to get off their bikes before plunging to a watery doom. This is an environmental thing. Humans are biodegradable. Bicycles are not. The last thing the Firth of Clyde needs is loads of old bikes cluttering up its depths.

Well it doesn't take much to keep them amused.

I love the faux American architecture of British seaside resorts.
This ice cream parlour is a brilliant example of the genre.



  1. So glad “my” cathedral was all I wanted it to be for you. I hope your prayers are answered. It was really good to meet for long enough to get past the small talk.
    I love your descriptions of places I know so well – and I didn’t know about Elton John!

  2. Thank you so much for the tour of Cumbrae and the cathedral. Newlin and I were there as part of a pilgrimage to the diocese of Argyl and the Isles some years ago. It was lovely to revisit that trip through yours, MP.

    On that trip we spent several days on Iona. Everyone found it to be a “thin spot”. I didn’t get it at the time. Whilst everyone was over at the abbey, I was in the ruins of the nunnery. But Cumbrae – there I got it. I hope you and the gang are enjoying the vacation, and I pray with you.

    • I’m with you on this one, Lois. I have never got Iona either. Mind you, I don’t feel anything much on Lindisfarne. The thing is, the only people who can do sacred places properly are catholics (of all denominations) and pagans. It’s to do with being able to balance the serious, well presented divine stuff with the kitsch. Low church types can’t do either.

  3. Jonathan, seconding your prayers for a chance to serve.

    And thank-you for sharing the pics of your travels. The cathedral, seen through your eyes was fascinating.

  4. My husband has many happy memories of childhood holidays spent with his Scottish grandparents who had retired to Millport. I’ve never visited, but this really makes me want to.

  5. Jonathan, I really enjoyed this travel diary/pilgrimage report. I’ve never been to that area and the photos were excellent. Thanks for sharing them.

  6. I love the faux American architecture of British seaside resorts.

    Well, I’ve long thought of Brits as faux Americans. >;-D

    Loved the bike sign (my dad did, too!). Looking forward to enjoying this beautiful thread at leisure…

  7. Before I left the church, I lit a candle in the Lady Chapel and prayed that one day I would get to serve as a priest in a building like this one.

    Lord, hear OUR prayer. Amen and amen!

    Really, really beautiful cathedral. Does my Anglo-Catholic heart good!


    Loved the Sir Elton story. Can just hear an early record producer: “Don’t say ‘Aunt Suzy.’ Make them believe you had a girlfriend!” }-p

  8. Great pictures and narration, MP. I’m glad you were able to get the computer so we could go along with you.

    About that American Style ice cream shop. That’s very retro American Style. Nostalgia for the ’50s I would think.